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Help Wanted: IT Recruiters for the 21st Century

Information technology talent acquisition in the 21st century requires companies to rethink the role of the recruiter.

June 3, 2013
Related Topics: Global Recruiting, Online Recruiting, Featured Article, Recruitment, Technology, Talent Management

Technology is only as good as the talent behind it. The blistering pace of innovation has created intense competition to recruit the best people, and the numbers show how tough it is: While the national unemployment rate was 7.8 percent at the end of 2012, the unemployment rate for technology professionals in the same period was an astonishing 3.3 percent. With the increasing demand for everything from software developers to network architects to data scientists, recruiters are directly competing against those in other organizations vying for the limited supply of talented people.

With the competing priorities and increased demands being placed on recruiters, how can a company align a recruiter for success? To start, the focus of talent acquisition should never be only on the hiring requirements of the moment. Rather, recruiters should be integrated with finance and other business functions they need to support. Recruiters need to understand the "bigger picture"—from the current status of a sales pipeline to long-term growth goals.

Talent acquisition leaders must also position the team for scale and growth, but make it nimble enough to scale back hiring investments at any time without adding major costs or affecting the recruiting team. This requires a solid alignment strategy, and recruiters with versatile skill sets to meet the changing demands of the business.

Information technology talent acquisition in the 21st century requires companies to rethink the role of the recruiter. It takes a highly skilled recruiter to influence top talent to make a move. Organizations need to place as much emphasis on their recruiters as they do on efforts to attract and engage new employees to an organization. At many innovative companies, technology-recruiting specialists are being elevated from simple "requisition executers," who match résumés with open positions, to business operators that help to drive talent strategies.

Companies must make a commitment to hiring and developing existing recruiters into true talent advisers. This requires them to craft a recruiter competency framework and support learning and development initiatives that equip recruiters to succeed. This includes steeping them in the company's business priorities and developing their knowledge of competitors, the overall marketplace and talent intelligence. Successful talent advisory recruiting also means building deeper talent assessing, selling and closing skills, even for veteran recruiters.

Today, job seekers engage in virtual job fairs, use social networking sites such as LinkedIn and Twitter as well as niche sites to find opportunities. And they often use mobile devices to do so. Companies must keep pace with technical innovations in their efforts to attract and engage candidates. With social media and cloud-based candidate relationship management tools, sourcing is more effective than when companies simply placed job ads in local newspapers or job boards. Most good recruiters already know who the top people are. The hard part is engaging the talent and selling them on the company.

Today's IT recruiter must be highly skilled in the area of passive candidate engagement, which means he or she has to be able to engage with nonactive job seekers who are often some of the brightest and most skilled technology minds in the business. Before speaking with candidates, recruiters should do their homework using social networking sites and find out more about the person's professional network, interests, employment history and hobbies. Such background helps a recruiter make a connection with a candidate and improves the chances of a candidate engaging in a conversation with a recruiter.

Recruiters are like a second sales force of an organization. Whether speaking to a recent college grad or an experienced passive candidate, the recruiter must have the ability to persuasively articulate the company's unique value proposition, while speaking specifically to a candidate's values and priorities, such as a virtual workplace, career progression, rewards and cultural perks.

There is a limited supply of talent in the marketplace. The first instinct may be to focus on talent needed in the moment. However, recruiters are the long-term talent brokers for an organization. As companies compete for top talent, a well-formulated recruiting strategy and a talented team of recruiters will be the differentiator.

Melissa McMahon serves as the senior director of Talent Acquisition at CDW, a provider of technology services for business, government, education and health care. She has more than 20 years of experience recruiting top IT talent and effectively developing high-performing talent acquisition teams. Comment below or email

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